A golden oldie to many Gentenaars, Het Spijker on the Pensmarkt boasts one of Ghent’s most popular terraces. Inside it’s smokey, with an Old World interior that matches the 12th-century building’s status as a monument – the oldest on the Graslei. The former grain silo now stays open late, serving a pleasant mix of night owl locals and visitors.
Pensmarkt 3, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 329 44 40
Hotsy Totsy has jazz in its veins and it shows. The charming 20s interior of the corner café alone attests to an illustrious past: booths covered in lush fabrics, dimmed lights hanging low and lots of dark wood. It’s no wonder Flemish author Hugo Claus chose to introduce the world to his magnum opus The Sorrow of Belgium in this particularly atmospheric nook of Ghent. Today the artist café is still a go-to for long talks, poetry readings, live jazz, blues, and even swing parties on Sundays. Lazy evenings are well-spent playing pool or scrabble with friends.
Hoogstraat 1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 224 20 12
Close as it is to KASK School of Arts, a lot of students and hipsters tend to flock to De Robot for a burger served with chips – the double cheese is a staple – a good Belgian beer or a roomeR (an aperitif and cocktail-suitable spirit made of elderflower). These tastebud treasures are consumed to a background of old rock ’n roll and blues. Owner Karen van San has filled her comfortable establishment with retro school furniture and a smattering of robots, and in the evenings it’s hoping for a spot on their special heated bench – a bit of modern technology suitable for such a popular robot.
Bijlokehof 1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 335 60 14
As Ghent’s first tiki bar, The Drifter has gone all out. Bamboo furniture, Hawaiian leis, palm trees, kitschy tiki mugs in the form of ‘o’-mouthed faces or totems – the mandatory over-the-top décor is checked off. Even more importantly though, owner and mixologist Tom has observed enough of these California-originated watering holes to sidestep the mistakes made by the many tiki imposters out there. At The Drifter, drinks are carefully concocted with just the right quality rums and fresh juices to enhance those vacation daydreams.
Oudburg 47 , 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 474 74 44 26
Its days as an exclusively bohemian headquarters are behind it, but its cluttered little tables and cozy sofas remain. Hidden down a quiet alley alongside the St. Peter’s Abbey, De Geus van Gent has a warm living-room draw to it. Ideal for long talks among liberals and philosophical discussions over a pint of one of 20 beers they serve straight from the tap, or for a spot of jazz on rainy Wednesday nights.
Kantienberg 9, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 220 78 25